Making A Difference in Our County
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension is working hard for its constituents. The following are examples of Extension’s impact in the county over the past year.
4-H Youth Development
The Camden County 4-H program focuses on life skills development, stress management, college preparation, workforce development, coastal awareness, special interest clubs and summer programming. Over 700 youth in Camden participated in local programming, including in-school programming in 5th grade classrooms, specialty club meetings, 4-H programming offered at the Kings Bay Youth Center, and a variety of virtual and in-person events offered throughout the year.
As part of the efforts to reach youth during a pandemic, Camden County collaborated with neighboring counties to offer a three-part series called “Coastal Adventures”.
Camden, Glynn, McIntosh, and Wayne county 4-H programs created a three-part virtual series, “Virtual Coastal Adventures,” that was delivered during the summer of 2020 in response to COVID-19 restrictions and the need to continue environmental education and science focused programs. Coastal Adventures was designed to support the goal of teaching students about local environmental issues and marine life while incorporating the 4-H essential elements of mastery, independence, generosity and belonging. Virtual Coastal Adventures provided youth an opportunity to safely participate in a group activity during a pandemic while in-person programs were not possible; while also engaging youth in learning about their local environment.
Each two-hour session included a variety of delivery methods to ensure the program was accessible and allowed youth to participate in a variety of ways. Each session included asynchronous activity packets containing educational information and instructions for activities that would be completed during the virtual session, along with activities for youth to complete independently at home. Packets were mailed to participants prior to each session. Youth were given the opportunity to report on their accomplishments and ask questions during each virtual session.
Three programs were offered, each with a unique focus on Georgia’s marine fauna: sea turtles, plankton, and marine mammals. Information on individual species, habitats, the challenges they face, and what youth can do to be environmental stewards was provided through direct instruction, videos, informational texts, and hands-on activities. Learning opportunities were a mix of at-home and live activities that included arts and crafts, cooking, puzzles, engineering, contests, experiments, virtual field trips, and observation of marine life through live feed cameras. Instruction and facilitation was provided by faculty and staff from all four counties.
Collectively, the Virtual Coastal Adventures series engaged 30 youth in live, interactive online programming. A total of 53 youth participants registered for the series and received the activity packets (36 unique individuals). Seven Georgia counties were represented. Three parent/adult leaders participated in the live online programs. Siblings and family members in the home were also engaged in completing at home and live program activities with the 4-H member.
These programs helped to establish a knowledge base of coastal environments and ecosystems. With this knowledge, students can begin to form new and positive attitudes about marine animals and environmental issues, which then creates the potential for behavior change to occur. Ultimately, with more activities offered through this program, behavior change in our 4-H students can lead to positive human impacts on our coastal environments and our planet’s overall health.
Agricultural and Natural Resources
The Camden County Extension office offers many agriculture and natural resources services to local clientele. The office offers soil, water and plant analyses through the university’s laboratories, as well as in-office and on-site consultations on issues such as pond management, lawn health and maintenance, gardening issues and strategies, water quality, and land use decisions.
As COVID-19 began to spread across the US, extension faculty and staff had to find new and impactful ways to reach and serve clientele. Agents needed to find creative new ways to meet clientele needs such as lab samples, educational classes and workshops, and consultations. In addition to meeting these needs, agents needed a way to sustain relationships with established clientele and stakeholders while also continuing to recruit new clients to extension.
The Camden County Agriculture and Natural Resources Program created an ongoing series of virtual lunch and learn programs to stay connected to current clientele, increase new clientele, and to continue impactful educational programming through a time when in person programming was not possible or safe. The program began in mid-April with programs weekly through the end of May. Due to the popularity of the programs (and continued pandemic) a second set of programs was scheduled. Programs were moved to once a month to allow for other programmatic obligations, and were scheduled through the end of 2021. If popularity continues and enrollment stays up, this program will continue indefinitely. Programs are held on Fridays from 12pm to 1pm. Topics included Gardening in a Sub-Tropical Swamp, Welcoming Pollinators to Your Landscape, Composting Basics, Watering in the Landscape, Native Plants and Low Maintenance Landscapes, Encouraging Biodiversity at Home, Welcoming Wildlife, Hurricane Preparation – Making a Plan, Invasive Plants in the Home Landscape, Snakes of Georgia, Seed Saving, Misunderstood Species, Citrus Issues in the Home Landscape, Pruning Basics.
All end of course evaluations submitted (100%) stated that the course(s) they attended had increased their knowledge in the subject area, while 95% stated that they had experienced a behavior change as a result of the webinar(s) that they attended. Behavior changes shared by participants included beginning to compost waste, reduction or elimination of pesticide use, adding habitat needs for wildlife and pollinators to the landscape, creating a hurricane preparedness kit, sharing information learned with others, utilizing IPM strategies, removing invasive plants from the landscape, greater appreciation of and more time spent in natural areas, and adding native plants to the landscape. Through this virtual platform the agent was able to connect with many more clients than usual, and over a greater geographic area. Attendees lived throughout the state of Georgia, and there were several attendees from states across the US. Through the virtual platform the agent had up to 170 attendees per session. In person the most she is able to accommodate is 20 attendees per session. The timing and virtual platform allowed busy working clientele to attend who often can’t commit to in person programming. One participant commented, “I have thoroughly enjoyed these classes as well as the instructor. Great info put out in an easy to understand way with access to more fabulous info by links provided. Thank you so much! I hope these courses continue as they have made a huge impact on our lives as I am able to pass this info on to my children and friends!” Another shared, “Jessica is right on spot with her knowledge and comprehension of our more specific issues in Camden County. This helps so much.” One participant shared, “The zoom meetings are really great and I’d love to see them continue after the pandemic because they are very accessible.”
Family and Consumer Sciences
Although Camden County does not have a Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) agent based in the county Extension office, we strive to assist local residents with their questions. Common questions cover food safety, food preservation, dealing with mold and mildew, healthy meal planning, nutrition, family budgeting, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) resources and more. These issues and others are answered through a wide variety of free UGA Extension publications available at the county office and phone conferences with Family and Consumer Sciences agents from surrounding counties. Neighboring FACS agents often conduct programming that our county residents are welcome to attend. This year there have also been many virtual opportunities for training and participation regardless of the client’s location. Our office can provide information about programming in surrounding counties.